The Thais, most historians believe, began migrating from southern China in the early part of the Christian era.
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At first they formed a number of city-states in the
northern part of what is present-day Thailand, in places like Chiang Saen, Chiang
Rai and Chiang Mai, but these were never strong enough to exert much influence
outside the immediate region.
The area, which is now Thailand, has been populated ever since the dawn of civilization in Asia.
The first humans in this region were hunter-gatherers whose way of life was based on hunting wild animals and gathering whatever grew wild in the woods and the hills.
Later on man learnt to modify nature, growing cereals such as rice and breeding livestock. Rice-growing communities sprang up. Metal casting and pottery making also became highly developed skills as these prehistoric settlements prospered.
Cast bronze technology in the northeastern Thailand area dates from around 2000 BC, making the prehistoric settlements in Thailand just as technologically advanced as those of India and China.
Since the 1960's, archaeological excavations in various parts of Thailand have unearthed many interesting and important sites, a large number of which are prehistoric.
There are several Stone Age settlements, the most notable among them being Ban Kao in Kanchanaburi Province, Non Nok Tha in Khon Kaen Province, and Ban Chiang in Udon Thani Province.
The spectacular finds at Ban Chiang include bronze utensils and ornaments, painted pottery, and bimetallic (bronze and iron) weapons. Ban Chiang was apparently settled as far back as 6,000 years ago and was continually inhabited for some 4,000 years. It was an agricultural community, with skilled metal workers and potters.
Artistically, the glory of Ban Chiang is the large amount of painted pottery found at the site. The most graceful shapes and intricate designs can be found on pottery dating back to the 300 BC - 200 AD period.
The people who lived in Ban Chiang comprised only one among many prehistoric communities in Thailand, which makes Thailand one of the cradles of Asian civilization and an area which was inhabited for thousands of years before the emergence of the first Thai state.
Gradually the Thais migrated further south to the broad and fertile central plains, and expanded their dominance over nearly the entire Indochina Peninsula. Contradictory as it may seem, however, recent archaeological discoveries around the northeast hamlet of Ban Chiang suggest that the worlds oldest Bronze Age civilization was flourishing in Thailand some 5,000 years ago.